Damoff reflects on her return to office and the nastiest campaign she has ever experienced

By Rory O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

October 8th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Recently re-elected Liberal Member of Parliament, Pam Damoff, reflected on her journey from replacement candidate in 2015 to three-time riding winner today. Damoff laid out where she has her sights set for her third term. Inducing long-standing passion projects such as cancer research funding and infrastructure, working with Ontario to implement affordable childcare, and Indigenous issues. Damoff also discusses the nastiest campaign of her career and the need for government intervention in social media disinformation.

Pam Damoff returned for the third time as the Member of Parliament for Oakville North Burlington.

Pam Damoff won her third federal election in the Oakville/North Burlington riding on September 20th. Damoff first ran for a federal position with the creation of the Oakville/North Burlington riding in 2015. Damoff’s nomination was unique in that she stepped up to represent the Liberal party when the original candidate Max Khan passed away unexpectedly. Damoff, representing Oakville Town Council at the time, made the most of the opportunity and now enters a third term, having won her two re-election bids comfortably(securing 47% in 2021 and 48.26% in 2019).

“It’s an honor, I never had a better job in my life. I love what I do and I’m excited to start a new parliament, especially as we’re coming out of the pandemic. It’s been terrific and I’m proud of the work that I’ve been able to do. I always say to people ‘don’t ever believe that MPs can’t make a difference,’ because prior to being a parliamentary secretary, I was able to get $160 million for the Terry Fox Research Institute, by working hard and lobbying.

“There’s a lot that you can do in committee, and in Parliament, whether you’re in cabinet as a parliamentary secretary or an MP. You know, there’s only 338 of us across the country and it’s a privilege to be able to do what I do,” said Damoff.

Damoff has long been a champion of cancer research funding. She lost her mother to leukemia in 1989, her father survived cancer, passing away due to unrelated causes as a 25-year cancer survivor. Damoff lost several other family members to the disease. Damoff is the current chair of the Terry Fox Run, where she has engaged with others impacted by cancer. The aforementioned would-be Liberal candidate Khan also survived three bouts of leukemia before passing away in the hospital after arriving with flu-like symptoms.

Damoff with football great Tony Gabriel at the 3582 memorial marker. Both are working to get Terry Fox on the next $5 bill issued.

“Everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another,” said Damoff.

Damoff said the government has started putting the focus on helping cancer researchers who couldn’t procure funding. She wants to assist underfunded areas, referencing research at McMaster University into deadly forms of breast cancer disproportionately impacting black women as an example.

Before the election Damoff told the Gazette she wanted to leave her mark on the office by assisting implementation of the Liberal government’s affordable child care program. Damoff says she is hopeful the federal government will get something done with Ontario and believes the childcare program will be implemented before the provincial election.

As for Damoff’s local goals she mentioned long-held advocacy for cycling and walking infrastructure. Damoff co-founded cycling infrastructure advocacy organization Cycle Oakville in 2013 before holding a federal position so this remains a long-term passion project for her. Damoff also hopes to work with Halton Region to bring in housing funding and climate change action.

As former parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indigenous Affairs, Marc Miller, Damoff found the Truth and Reconciliation Day gatherings encouraging. Damoff attended an event in Ottawa on September 30th, adding she was impressed by the Burlington ceremony. She encouraged Canadians to continue to participate in such events, to read Indigenous authors, and to visit cultural centers such as the Woodland Culture Centre in Brampton.

Damoff celebrating her third victory as the Member for Oakville North Burlington

Damoff doesn’t know if she will retain a role in the Indigenous Affairs department in this parliament. Stressing that all calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation committee are important, Damoff acknowledged some are easier to get to than others, saying she’d like to see a monument built in Ottawa, which would commemorate residential school survivors and victims as well as educate Canadians.

As for shortcomings in the Liberal administration’s dealings with Indigenous affairs Damoff suggested it’s more important to look forward than at what they could do differently. The Liberal government’s lagging deadlines on lifting boil-water advisories are one of the most common criticisms with their handling of Indigenous affairs. In Damoff’s previous interview with the Gazette, she pointed out it is not up to the federal government to lift boil water advisories but up to the communities themselves.

She would not say if the Prime Minister made a mistake in the 2015 campaign pledge to lift all boil water advisories if it was not possible for his administration to carry out this promise.

“It was an ambitious timeline and we put a plan in place to get rid of the rest of them so I think the focus needs to be on ensuring that the remaining long-term drinking water advisories get lifted. I think that’s where we need to focus on, whether the timeline was the right one or not,” said Damoff.

Damoff called her 2021 bid for re-election the nastiest campaign she’s been involved in. Damoff was saddened as Liberal volunteers were accosted by conspiracy theorists at the door.

“It’s really unfortunate that people who choose to volunteer their time for political parties, regardless of political party, would feel unsafe when they’re volunteering their time. We had a lot of young people working on the campaign. The vast majority of people who disagree with us on policy do so respectfully in a way that’s part of a healthy democracy. Sadly, there’s a small portion of society so aggressive and angry,” said Damoff.

Beyond the campaign, Damoff pointed to young people in the workforce being screamed at by anti-maskers. When asked if she believed she could speak to conspiracy theorists and work on the divide Damoff was skeptical. Damoff said she hoped civilized discourse could exist but it needs to start from a basis of accepting science and public health measures. Realities COVID conspiracy theorists seem incapable of accepting.

Pam Damoff has been very effective with members of the different ethnic communities.

Damoff credits social media with a large role in the degradation of discourse and says the government must be involved in holding social media companies, who she says lack the employees to monitor their standards(which have often been inadequate to begin with) to account.

“We need to do something because disinformation shared on Facebook and social media sites fuels the types of things that we’re seeing in our society now,” said Damoff.

As for what her schedule looks like right now Damoff looks forward to connecting with the municipal government officials in Burlington and Oakville and establishing priorities for the current administration.

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